Western Conference Playoff Predictions
1. Golden State Warriors
The Warriors have their key players returning for yet another run at the title. Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, etc. The Warriors added Nick Young, another perimeter shooter. The Warriors have the best offense in the league and can cause mismatches at any position on the floor. I expect the Warriors to be the top seed in the Western Conference and make a run at another title.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder
Russell Westbrook is the reigning NBA MVP and proved how good he really is last season, averaging a triple-double. He doesn’t need Kevin Durant especially when the Thunder added Paul George and Carmelo Anthony this offseason. The Thunder also revamped their bench adding Raymond Felton and Patrick Patterson. Steven Adams will be the key to this team down low, which is a lot to say with this stacked lineup. Adams brings a certain mentality and physicality to the defensive end that can’t be taught. Adams will be the biggest beneficiary of the offseason moves this year, getting easy looks and picking up rebounds.
3. San Antonio Spurs
Gregg Popovich is one of the best coaches of all-time and he continues to do special things down in San Antonio. The Spurs have the talent but they are getting up there in age with Paul Gasol, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili. Kawhi Leonard is the best two-way player in the NBA and continues to get better each season. The Spurs will have a lot of success with a smaller lineup, moving LaMarcus Aldridge to the 5. In the offseason the Spurs signed Rudy Gay who will be looking to prove himself after an injury last season.
4. Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets have one of the best offenses in the league with James Harden, Chris Paul, and Eric Gordon. The reason I pick them at the four spot is because of their lack of defense. They brought in PJ Tucker to help defensively but will need more to compete at the top three spots of the conference. Who knows, maybe Trevor Ariza and James Harden step up defensively and make a title run. Harden and Paul will excel in this pick and roll offense.
5. Minnesota Timberwolves
The Timberwolves are the most improved team from last season. On draft night they were able to swing a trade for Jimmy Butler. They were also able to sign Jamal Crawford, Taj Gibson, and Jeff Teague, who will all heavily contribute this season. Karl Anthony-Towns is starting to make this a big man’s game again but he can also stretch the floor. Andrew Wiggins is very athletic and, with the help of Butler and Teague, he’ll get that much better. The Timberwolves shouldn’t have a problem making the playoffs but staying in may be a problem.
6. New Orleans Pelicans
Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins have now had a season to acclimate themselves with one another. They’re the two best big men in the game and can score at will. The problem may come down to ball movement and picking and choosing their spots. The Pelicans will rely on Jrue Holiday and Rajon Rondo to keep the floor spaced and the ball moving.
7. Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers had a big roster turnover this season trading Chris Paul to Houston and signing Danilo Gallinari. Blake Griffin and De’Andre Jordan return for this Doc Rivers coached team. I will start by saying Austin Rivers shouldn’t start in this league. Off the bench, Milos Teodosic has been impressive this pre-season and Lou Williams can shoot with the best of them. If one injury happens to this team, count them out of the playoffs.
8. Portland Trailblazers
Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum are one of the best guard combos in the league and will need to show that this season. The Trailblazers will need to get a lot of big minutes out of Jusuf Nurkic and Meyers Leonard. Caleb Swanigan will give quality minutes as well when given his time. The Trailblazers will need to lock up defensively in this stacked Western Conference. Evan Turner will need to make this team run after signing a huge contract, he’ll need to prove his worth.